Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I just had the cutest conversation with my mother.

Mom: You should speak to Mary sometime. She lives in your neighbourhood.

Ryan: Really?

Mom: She's the sweetest woman. She demonstrates for China all the time!

Ryan: Demonstates for China?

Mom: It's either demonstrates for China, or against China. I can never remember which it is.

Ryan: Oh.

Mom: I should remember which it is. She's told me before...

I know it's wrong, but the mental image of a sweet, middle-aged woman standing outside the Chinese Embassy with a sign that says "Occupy Tibet!" makes me smile.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I had a good trip. I'm going to tell you all about it. But, first, a little math.

Proportion of visits to Costa Rica when Ryan has not either filed a police report or sustained major vehicle damage: 0 / 3

I think the best way to describe the trip is to tell it as a series of short stories. Bonus points if you can put them in the right order.


The airplane shuddered as it touched ground in Montreal. I held my cell phone in one hand, and a bottle of Pepto Bismol in the other. The second the landing gear hit tarmac, I lit up the phone and started dialing. We'd been on the road since for 17 hours, and had twenty-three minutes to reach the car rental desk before we were stranded for the night. Make that twenty-two minutes.

Andrea and I had laid out our system long in advance. She was to wait for the bags, and I was to get the car. Twenty minutes. Jesus, how can 411 put me on hold? Once we were able to get off the plane, we were to move as fast as we could to outrace our fellow passengers, and beat the rush to customs. What? You don't have the number for Avis? I have an idea. Check the A's. It was a well-laid plan, but it did not allow for the death-grip that Costa Rican cuisine held on my stomach. Swallowing a moan, I took another slug of the sweet, chalky pink fluid. Oh, so their telephone system's down. Bloody perfect. The lights dinged on, and we shot to our feet. Eighteen minutes.


"We're making good time," I mused, noting a sign that placed us less than a hundred clicks from San Jose.

Glancing down at the driver's-side mirror, I wondered what Avis would say when we brought the car in. Glue flaked off the finish, and it was clear that something wasn't right in anything resembling direct sunlight. I may have had the photos that proved it wasn't our fault, but whether that was enought to prevent us from being presented with a thousand-dollar repair bill was yet to be seen.

My frown deepened as our little Kia Rio's zippy jaunt was ended by the sudden appearance of a large cargo truck on the winding two-lane that carved through the Costa Rican rainforest. Annoyance turned to outright fear as a gentle corner abruptly turned into a steep climb. I slipped from third to second, just in time for the car to jerk to a halt on the middle of the hill. Behind us, a tourist bus stopped inches from our rear bumper. Behind them, another car waited.

"I don't think they hit us," Andrea said, looking back.

What she didn't say, or need to say, was that we had a stalled car on a hill so steep that we could barely see the horizon, less than two inches from causing a second round of major body damage. No number of photos would get us out of paying for this one, or release us from the wrath of one seriously pissed-off tour bus driver, provided we so much as looked at the stick-shift in an untoward manner.

"Hang on."

I blessed the Patron Saint of the Canadian Forces Armoured Corps, and all the many hours I had spent jump-starting ancient Bombardier jeeps. I thought of all the thick-skulled Corporals that had screamed at me for stalling their precious military hardware, and silently thanked them for their none-too-gentle ministrations. I yanked back on the emergency brake, slammed the gear into first, stood on the gas, and slammed the e-brake back to earth like a mighty plastic-coated hammer.

I'm not sure what the fine Korean engineers at Kia were thinking when they built that little Rio. I wonder if they thought it might be a good first car for some young fellow, just starting out in the world. Perhaps they pictured it on the highways and biways of North America, slowly gaining renown as an economical and practical alternative to pricey Detroit steel.

But, I would be willing to bet that they did not picture that cute, zippy little car laying down a patch of rubber in the middle of a Central American rainforest, screaming a primal scream and filling the air with the smell of burning tires, as its two sweaty Caucasian passengers prayed a silent prayer to move up that hill, just one little inch.

Well, I'll hand it to those Korean engineers. We moved an inch. We moved lots of inches. Almost a hundred kilometers worth of inches. And after that? Well, let's just say that if you ever rent a Kia Rio in San Jose, you might want to make sure that the e-brake hasn't been vaporized before you sign for it.


That's it for now. More to follow...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

May We Subsidize Your Trip to Toronto?

Andrea and I need to go to Toronto this coming weekend, so that we can make our flight for Reading Week. We booked this trip on points, and it turns out that while we're flying out of Toronto, we fly back into Montreal. The long and the short of it is that we need a lift to Toronto that leaves sometime between 6:00 pm Friday and 6:00 pm on Saturday. We're willing to compensate you for your time, should you be able to give us a lift. The amount's up for negotiation, but considering the alternative is for us to pay for 2 x bus tickets, it's fair to say your trip will be heavily subsidized.

We've got a rental car reservation out of Montreal the following weekend... that one's a little bit more awkward as far as time is concerned (we get in at midnight on the night of the 25th) but the same offer holds, if you'd like to have a subsidized road trip to Montreal. If not, we'll just use our current rental car arrangement.

If you're interested, please either e-mail or leave a comment... we'd need to know by Tuesday, sorry for the rush. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Breath Catching

... that's what I'm doing today. And for the past few days. And for the next few days afterwards.

Work's going well. I feel as though I'm getting settled in, now that all the furniture is in place. I owe Andrea a great deal of thanks for that - she came up last weekend, and finished furnishing the apartment while I was at work on Friday. It looks great. It looks like a real adult lives here. There are curtains in my apartment, of all things.

Later that evening, we had a few people over for a house warming party. This was particularly exciting, as I haven't had a proper party since I moved from Victoria Street. I really enjoy entertaining. Unfortunately, the size of my place is such that I couldn't fit more than eight people in the living room at any given time. I guess that means it's going to take even longer than usual to wear down The Bar again, especially with all the nice bottles of wine that my very thoughtful guests brought over.

Less than two weeks until Costa Rica, yet it still hasn't sunk in yet. Both Andrea and I have so much to do between now and then that it's probably not going to feel real until we get onto the plane. I was foolish enough to think that taking a course would be a good idea, and now I'm slowly getting buried in work for my first year course in Human Geography.

I'm debating whether or not I'm going to ask my landlord if I can keep a cat. On one hand, he would probably destroy my furniture and I'd have to change litterboxes. On the other hand, I could name him 'Baron Von Whiskers' and he could sleep on my exceptionally comfortable bed. Jury's still out on this one.

In case any of you are wondering what it feels like to be an adult, it's a lot like being a student, except you need to get up much earlier in the morning. And, usually, go to bed much earlier. As in, like, 9:00 pm. Lame, aren't I?

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Here's a meme from Susan.

Four jobs I've had:

- Camp counsellor
- Multimedia designer
- Tank crewman
- Travel writer

Four movies I can watch over and over again:

- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
- Fight Club
- Dr. Strangelove
- Equilibrium

Four Places I've Lived:

- Calgary, AB.
- Kingston, ON.
- Buck Lake, ON.
- Ottawa, ON.

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch:

- 24
- BBC News
- That show on the History Channel with black and white footage of World War II and a very serious British narrator.

Four Places I've Been on Vacation:

- Indonesia (on a school trip, believe it or not)
- Scotland (visiting the birth place of Lagavulin)
- Cuba (cigars, beaches, and rum... oh my!)
- Costa Rica (it's the Switzerland of Central America, minus all the Nazi gold)

Four Websites I Visit Daily:

- BBC News
- Perry Bible Fellowship
- Exit.ca
- Penny Arcade

Four of my Favourite Foods:

- Meat Lover's Pizza
- Steak
- Breakfast Burgers
- Creme Brulee

Four places I would rather be right now:
(I worked damned hard to get where I am now, and I'm more than happy to be here. But I'll give you the runners up...)

- In Costa Rica, bartending at a cigar bar that faces onto the Pacific.
- Floating in an inner tube, enjoying a Buck Lake August Day with a cigar and a Heineken.
- Embroiled in intrigue aboard the Orient Express.
- Driving a Shelby 427 Cobra to California along route 66.

I'm breaking from tradition, and I'm not going to tag anyone. But do feel free to borrow the format, if you're so inclined.